A few weeks ago, I visited N Street Village’s emergency shelter, Patricia Handy Place for Women, and had the chance to visit with some residents. There, I met a woman named Queenie – a tall African American woman who had just come from work.
She told me proudly that although she was sixty years old, she could still keep up with her younger colleagues at the D.C. Public School where she has worked for over twenty years.
Queenie had come to N Street Village a month ago and was still astonished to find herself there. She couldn’t really imagine how it had happened; her rent kept going up over the years as her pay lagged farther and farther behind until she was evicted.
She described having to choose what she would take from her apartment. How much could she fit in a few bags? How much could she carry and still walk? The feeling of having to choose between what she would take.
Then Queenie asked me, “So when do I get housing?”
I am accustomed to this question, but it always hard to hear. This January, more than 6,500 people in our city were experiencing homelessness and many thousands are on the waitlist for rental assistance (which is presently closed because the list is so long). And, as we all know, homelessness is only the tip of the iceberg of poverty. Below, racism and discrimination breed inequity in all areas of women’s health and well-being, especially for African American women who are nine times as likely to experience homelessness and whose life expectancy is lower by a full nine years.
Back with Queenie, I could only tell her that we’d work with her as hard as possible.
We also know that Queenie’s story is just one of many, and that there is still much work to be done. But your voice as part of our Village community is a testimony that every individual in our city is deserving of
worth and dignity.
Housing, health, and well-being are for everyone in D.C. – with no exceptions, no one left behind.
Together, we are not GIVING charity, we are DOING justice. Together, we run on a different economy. We can see a day when every woman has a safe place to call home, and it starts with a marketplace of equity and a currency of compassion.
When I asked Queenie whether I could share her story with you, and if she would prefer that I use a pseudonym, she did not hesitate – “PLEASE tell them,” she said, “and use my name – I want them to know who I am.”
Every day at least one new woman arrives at our front door. Thank you for being there to greet her. Thank you for being there to seek justice and to embrace hope. Thank you for welcoming each and every woman in her full humanity and by her own true name.
N Street Village Chief Executive Officer